This book tells the real story of Tonky, an elephant at Ueno zoo. A keeper named Shinichi takes care of Tonky during the 1920s and 1930s, but when the war eventually breaks out, he has to make a difficult decision regarding the elephant….
The tragic fates of the animals at Ueno zoo during the Second World War are well documented, but I was very unaware of these procedures until I read this book. Apparently, Tonky was one of three elephants at Ueno zoo during that time, but the other two are not mentioned in this story.
Compared to the free level 2 stories by the NPO Tagengo Tadoku I found this story rather complex. It uses some more difficult vocabulary, which is also often only apparent through later repetition. However, the story itself is well written and of course the tragedy of it all is almost unavoidably heartbreaking.
This story about the elephant Tonky is part of a graded reader set by ask. It also includes traditional tales such as Momotarō and Ikkyū-san as well as a simple Japanese version of The Gift of the Magi.
You can get this full set here (affiliate link).
Length: 23 pages